|South China Sea|
The northeastern portion of the South China Sea
|Hanyu Pinyin||Nán Hǎi|
|Literal meaning||South Sea|
|Alternative Chinese name|
|Hanyu Pinyin||Nán Zhōngguó Hǎi|
|Literal meaning||South China Sea|
|Literal meaning||East Sea|
[tʰáʔlēː tɕīːnáʔ tɑ̂i]
(South China Sea)
|Kanji||南支那海 or 南シナ海 (literally "South Shina Sea")|
|Malay||Laut Cina Selatan
(South China Sea)
|Indonesian||Laut Cina Selatan /
Laut Tiongkok Selatan
(South China Sea)
|Tagalog||Dagat Timog Tsina
(South China Sea)
Dagat Kanlurang Pilipinas
(West Philippine Sea)1
|Portuguese||Mar da China Meridional
(South China Sea)
The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan of around 3,500,000 square kilometres (1,400,000 sq mi). The area's importance largely results from one-third of the world's shipping transiting through its waters, and that it is believed to hold huge oil and gas reserves beneath its seabed.2
It is located3
- south of mainland China, including the island of Taiwan, in the east;
- east of Vietnam and Cambodia;
- west of the Philippines;
- east of the Malay peninsula and Sumatra, up to the Straits of Malacca in the west; and
- north of the Bangka–Belitung Islands and Borneo
The minute South China Sea Islands, collectively an archipelago, number in the hundreds. The sea and its mostly uninhabited islands are subject to competing claims of sovereignty by several countries. These claims are also reflected in the variety of names used for the islands and the sea.
South China Sea is the dominant term used in English for the sea, and the name in most European languages is equivalent, but it is sometimes called by different names in China's neighboring countries, often reflecting historical claims to hegemony over the sea.
The English name is a result of early European interest in the sea as a route from Europe and South Asia to the trading opportunities of China. In the sixteenth century Portuguese sailors called it the China Sea (Mar da China); later needs to differentiate it from nearby bodies of water led to calling it the South China Sea.4 The International Hydrographic Organization refers to the sea as "South China Sea (Nan Hai)".3
The Yizhoushu, which was a chronicle of the Western Zhou dynasty (1046–771 BCE) gives the first Chinese name for the South China Sea as Nanfang Hai (Chinese: 南方海; pinyin: Nánfāng Hǎi; literally: "Southern Sea"), claiming that barbarians from that sea gave tributes of hawksbill sea turtles to the Zhou rulers.5 The Classic of Poetry, Zuo Zhuan, and Guoyu classics of the Spring and Autumn period (771-476 BCE) also referred to the sea, but by the name Nan Hai (Chinese: 南海; pinyin: Nán Hǎi; literally: "South Sea") in reference to the State of Chu's expeditions there.5 Nan Hai, the South Sea, was one of the Four Seas of Chinese literature. There are three other seas, one for each of the four cardinal directions.6 During the Eastern Han dynasty (23-220 CE), China's rulers called the Sea Zhang Hai (Chinese: 漲海; pinyin: Zhǎng Hǎi; literally: "distended sea").5 Fei Hai (Chinese: 沸海; pinyin: Fèi Hǎi; literally: "boil sea") became popular during the Southern and Northern Dynasties period. Usage of the current Chinese name, Nan Hai (South Sea), became gradually widespread during the Qing Dynasty.7
In Southeast Asia it was once called the Champa Sea AKA Sea of Cham, after the maritime kingdom of Champa that flourished there before the sixteenth century. The majority of the sea came under Japanese naval control during World War II following the military acquisition of many surrounding South East Asian territories in 1941. Japan calls the sea Minami Shina Kai "South China Sea". This was written 南支那海 until 2004, when the Japanese Foreign Ministry and other departments switched the spelling 南シナ海, which has become the standard usage in Japan.
In China, it is called the "South Sea", 南海 Nánhǎi, and in Vietnam the "East Sea", Biển Đông.8910 In Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, it was long called the "South China Sea" (Dagat Timog Tsina in Tagalog, Laut China Selatan in Malay), with the part within Philippine territorial waters often called the "Luzon Sea", Dagat Luzon, by the Philippines.11 However, following an escalation of the Spratly Islands dispute in 2011, various Philippine government agencies started using the name "West Philippine Sea". A PAGASA spokesperson said that the sea to the east of the Philippines will continue to be called the Philippine Sea.12
In September 2012, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III signed Administrative Order No. 29, mandating that all government agencies use the name "West Philippine Sea" to refer to the parts of the South China Sea within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, and tasked the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) to use the name in official maps.13
States and territories with borders on the sea (clockwise from north) include: the People's Republic of China (including Macau and Hong Kong), the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam.
On the South. The Eastern and Southern limits of Singapore and Malacca Straits [A line joining Tanjong Datok, the Southeast point of Johore ( ) through Horsburgh Reef to Pulo Koko, the Northeastern extreme of Bintan Island ( ). The Northeastern coast of Sumatra as far West as Tanjong Kedabu ( ) down the East coast of Sumatra to Lucipara Point ( ) thence to Tanjong Nanka, the Southwest extremity of Banka Island, through this island to Tanjong Berikat the Eastern point ( ), on to Tanjong Djemang ( ) in Billiton, along the North coast of this island to Tanjong Boeroeng Mandi ( ) and thence a line to Tanjong Sambar ( ) the Southwest extreme of Borneo.
On the East. From Tanjong Sambar through the West coast of Borneo to Tanjong Sampanmangio, the North point, thence a line to West points of Balabac and Secam Reefs, on to the West point of Bancalan Island and to Cape Buliluyan, the Southwest point of Palawan, through this island to Cabuli Point, the Northern point thereof, thence to the Northwest point of Busuanga and to Cape Calavite in the island of Mindoro, to the Northwest point of Lubang Island and to Point Fuego (14°08'N) in Luzon Island, through this island to Cape Engano, the Northeast point of Luzon, along a line joining this cape with the East point of Balintang Island (20°N) and to the East point of Y'Ami Island (21°05'N) thence to Garan Bi, the Southern point of Taiwan (Formosa), through this island to Santyo (25°N) its North Eastern Point.
On the North. From Fuki Kaku the North point of Formosa to Kiushan Tao (Turnabout Island) on to the South point of Haitan Tao (25°25'N) and thence Westward on the parallel of 25°24' North to the coast of Fukien.
The South China Sea opened after around 45 million years ago when Dangerous Ground were rifted away from southern China. Extension culminated in seafloor spreading around 30 million years ago, a process that propagated to the SW resulting in the V-shaped basin we see today. Extension ceased around 17 million years ago.14 Arguments have continued about the role of tectonic extrusion in forming the basin. Paul Tapponnier and colleagues have argued that as India collides with Asia it pushes Indochina to the SE. The relative shear between Indochina and China caused the South China Sea to open.15 This view is disputed by geologistswho? who do not consider Indochina to have moved far relative to mainland Asia. Recent marine geophysical studies by Peter Clift has shown that the Red River Fault was active and causing basin formation at least by 37 million years ago in the NW South China Sea, consistent with extrusion playing a part in the formation of the sea. Since opening the South China Sea has been the repository of large sediment volumes delivered by the Mekong River, Red River and Pearl River. Several of these deltas are rich in oil and gas deposits.
Islands and seamounts
The South China Sea contains over 250 small islands, atolls, cays, shoals, reefs, and sandbars, most of which have no indigenous people, many of which are naturally under water at high tide, and some of which are permanently submerged. The features are grouped into three archipelagos (listed by area size), Macclesfield Bank and Scarborough Shoal:
- The Spratly Islands
- The Paracel Islands
- The Pratas Islands
- The Macclesfield Bank
- The Scarborough Shoal
The Spratly Islands spread over an 810 by 900 km area covering some 175 identified insular features, the largest being Taiping Island (Itu Aba) at just over 1.3 km long and with its highest elevation at 3.8 metres.
The largest singular feature in the area of the Spratly Islands is a 100 km wide seamount called Reed Tablemount, also known as Reed Bank, in the northeast of the group, separated from Palawan Island of the Philippines by the Palawan Trench. Now completely submerged, with a depth of 20 m, it was an island until it sank about 7,000 years ago due to the increasing sea level after the last ice age. With an area of 8,866 km², it is one of the largest submerged atoll structures of the world.
It is an extremely significant body of water in a geopolitical sense. It is the second most used sea lane in the world, while in terms of world annual merchant fleet tonnage, over 50% passes through the Strait of Malacca, the Sunda Strait, and the Lombok Strait. Over 1.6 million m³ (10 million barrels) of crude oil a day are shipped through the Strait of Malacca, where there are regular reports of piracy, but much less frequently than before the mid-20th century.
The region has proven oil reserves of around 1.2 km³ (7.7 billion barrels), with an estimate of 4.5 km³ (28 billion barrels) in total. Natural gas reserves are estimated to total around 7,500 km³ (266 trillion cubic feet). A 2013 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration raised the total estimated oil reserves to 11 billion barrels.16 In 2014 China began to drill for oil in waters disputed with Vietnam.17
According to studies made by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippines, this body of water holds one third of the entire world's marine biodiversity, thereby making it a very important area for the ecosystem. However the fish stocks in the area are depleted, and countries are using fishing bans as a means of asserting their sovereignty claims.18
Several countries have made competing territorial claims over the South China Sea. Such disputes have been regarded as Asia's most potentially dangerous point of conflict. Both People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) claim almost the entire body as their own, demarcating their claims within what is known as the nine-dotted line, which claims overlap with virtually every other country in the region. Competing claims include:
- Indonesia, China, and Taiwan over waters NE of the Natuna Islands
- The Philippines, China, and Taiwan over Scarborough Shoal.
- Vietnam, China, and Taiwan over waters west of the Spratly Islands. Some or all of the islands themselves are also disputed between Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
- The Paracel Islands are disputed between the PRC/ROC and Vietnam.
- Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam over areas in the Gulf of Thailand.
- Singapore and Malaysia along the Strait of Johore and the Strait of Singapore.
China and Vietnam have both been vigorous in prosecuting their claims. China (various governments) and South Vietnam each controlled part of the Paracel Islands before 1974. A brief conflict in 1974 resulted in 18 soldiers being killed, and China has controlled the whole of Paracel since then.citation needed The Spratly Islands have been the site of a naval clash, in which over seventy Vietnamese sailors were killed just south of Chigua Reef in March 1988. Disputing claimants regularly report clashes between naval vessels.citation needed
ASEAN in general, and Malaysia in particular, has been keen to ensure that the territorial disputes within the South China Sea do not escalate into armed conflict. As such, Joint Development Authorities have been set up in areas of overlapping claims to jointly develop the area and dividing the profits equally without settling the issue of sovereignty over the area. This is true, particularly in the Gulf of Thailand. Generally, China has preferred to resolve competing claims bi-laterally,19 while some ASEAN countries prefer multi-lateral talks,20 believing that they are disadvantaged in bi-lateral negotiations with the much larger China and that because many countries claim the same territory only multilateral talks could effectively resolve the competing claims.21
The overlapping claims over Pedra Branca or Pulau Batu Putih including neighboring Middle Rocks by both Singapore and Malaysia were settled in 2008 by the International Court of Justice, awarding Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh to Singapore and Middle Rocks to Malaysia.
In July 2010, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for the Peoples Republic of China to resolve the territorial dispute. China responded by demanding the US keep out of the issue. This came at a time when both countries have been engaging in naval exercises in a show of force to the opposing side, which increased tensions in the region.citation needed The US Department of Defense released a statement on August 18 where it opposed the use of force to resolve the dispute, and accused China of assertive behaviour.citation needed On July 22, 2011, one of India's amphibious assault vessels, the INS Airavat which was on a friendly visit to Vietnam, was reportedly contacted at a distance of 45 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coast in the disputed South China Sea on an open radio channel by a vessel identifying itself as the Chinese Navy and stating that the ship was entering Chinese waters.2223 The spokesperson for the Indian Navy clarified that as no ship or aircraft was visible from INS Airavat it proceeded on her onward journey as scheduled. The Indian Navy further clarified that "[t]here was no confrontation involving the INS Airavat. India supports freedom of navigation in international waters, including in the South China Sea, and the right of passage in accordance with accepted principles of international law. These principles should be respected by all." 22
In September 2011, shortly after China and Vietnam had signed an agreement seeking to contain a dispute over the South China Sea, India's state-run explorer, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) said that its overseas investment arm ONGC Videsh Limited had signed a three-year deal with PetroVietnam for developing long-term cooperation in the oil sector and that it had accepted Vietnam's offer of exploration in certain specified blocks in the South China Sea.24 In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu issued a protest.2526 The spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India responded by saying that “The Chinese had concerns but we are going by what the Vietnamese authorities have told us and have conveyed this to the Chinese.”25 The Indo-Vietnamese deal was also denounced by the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times.2426
In January 2013, The Philippines government said it will take China to a UN tribunal under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to challenge its claims in the South China Sea.27
Various factions of the Muslim Moro people are waging a war for independence against the Philippines. The website of the separatist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) of Nur Misuari declared its support for China against the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute, calling both China and the Moro people as victims of Philippine colonialism, and noting China's history of friendly relations with the Moros.29 The MNLF website also denounced America's assistance to the Philippines in their colonization of the Moro people in addition to denouncing the Philippines claims to the islands disputed with China, and denouncing America for siding with the Philippines in the dispute, noting that in 1988 China "punished" Vietnam for attempting to set up a military presence on the disputed islands, and noting that the Moros and China maintained peaceful relations, while on the other hand the Moros had to resist other colonial powers, having to fight the Spanish, fight the Americans, and fight the Japanese, in addition to fighting the Philippines.30
Champa historically had a large presence in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese broke Champa's power in an invasion of Champa in 1471, and then finally conquered the last remnants of the Cham people in an invasion in 1832. A Cham named Katip Suma who received Islamic education in Kelantan declared a Jihad against the Vietnamese, and fighting continued until the Vietnamese crushed the remnants of the resistance in 1835. The Cham organization Front de Libération du Champa was part of the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races, which waged war against the Vietnamese for independence in the Vietnam War along with the Montagnard and Khmer Krom minorities. The last remaining FULRO insurgents surrendered to the United Nations in 1992. Vietnam has settled over a million ethnic Vietnamese on Montagnard lands in the Central Highlands. The Montagnard staged a massive protest against the Vietnamese in 2001, which led to the Vietnamese to forcefully crush the uprising and seal the entire area off to foreigners.
The Vietnamese government fears that evidence of Champa's influence over the disputed area in the South China Sea would bring attention to human rights violations and killings of ethnic minorities in Vietnam such as in the 2001 and 2004 uprisings, and lead to the issue of Cham autonomy being brought into the dispute, since the Vietnamese conquered the Hindu and Muslim Cham people in a war in 1832, and the Vietnamese continue to destroy evidence of Cham culture and artifacts left behind, plundering or building on top of Cham temples, building farms over them, banning Cham religious practices, and omitting references to the destroyed Cham capital of Song Luy in the 1832 invasion in history books and tourist guides. The situation of Cham compared to ethnic Vietnamese is substandard, lacking water and electricity and living in houses made out of mud.31
The Cham in Vietnam are only recognized as a minority, and not as an indigenous people by the Vietnamese government despite being indigenous to the region. Both Hindu and Muslim Chams have experienced religious and ethnic persecution and restrictions on their faith under the current Vietnamese government, with the Vietnamese state confisticating Cham property and forbidding Cham from observing their religious beliefs. Hindu temples were turned into tourist sites against the wishes of the Cham Hindus. In 2010 and 2013 several incidents occurred in Thành Tín and Phươc Nhơn villages where Cham were murdered by Vietnamese. In 2012, Vietnamese police in Chau Giang village stormed into a Cham Mosque, stole the electric generator, and also raped Cham girls.32 Cham Muslims in the Mekong Delta have also been economically marginalized and pushed into poverty by Vietnamese policies, with ethnic Vietnamese Kinh settling on majority Cham land with state support, and religious practices of minorities have been targeted for elimination by the Vietnamese government.33
- Pacpaco, Ryan Ponce (2012). "Rename South China Sea -- solon | National". journal.com.ph. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
- A look at the top issues at Asian security meeting Associated Press, ROBIN McDOWELL, July 21, 2011.
- "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition". International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. § 49. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
- Tønnesson, Stein (2005). Locating the South China Sea. In Kratoska, Paul et al., eds. Locating Southeast Asia: geographies of knowledge and politics of space. Singapore: Singapore University Press. p. 203-233.
- Shen, Jianming (2002). "China's Sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands: A Historical Perspective". Chinese Journal of International Law 1 (1): 94–157.
- Chang, Chun-shu (2007). The Rise of the Chinese Empire: Nation, State, and Imperialism in Early China, ca. 1600 B.C. – A.D. 8. University of Michigan Press. pp. 263–264. ISBN 978-0-472-11533-4.
- 华林甫 (Hua Linfu), 2006. 插图本中国地名史话 (An illustrated history of Chinese place names). 齊鲁書社 (Qilu Publishing), page 197. ISBN 7533315464
- "VN and China pledge to maintain peace and stability in East Sea". Socialist Republic of Vietnam Government Web Portal.
- "FM Spokesperson on FIR control over East Sea". Embassy of Vietnam in USA. March 11, 2001.
- "The Map of Vietnam". Socialist Republic of Vietnam Government Web Portal. Archived from the original on 2006-10-06.
- John Zumerchik; Steven Laurence Danver (2010). Seas and Waterways of the World: An Encyclopedia of History, Uses, and Issues. ABC-CLIO. p. 259. ISBN 978-1-85109-711-1.
- Quismundo, Tarra (2011-06-13). "South China Sea renamed in the Philippines". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- West Philippine Sea Limited To Exclusive Economic Zone, September 14, 2012, International Business Times
- Trần Tất Thắng, Tống Duy Thanh, Vũ Khúc, Trịnh Dánh, Đào Đình Thục, Trần Văn Trị and Lê Duy Bách (2000). Lexicon of Geological Units of Viet Nam. Department of Geology and Mineral of Việt Nam.
- Jon Erickson; Ernest Hathaway Muller (2009). Rock Formations and Unusual Geologic Structures: Exploring the Earth's Surface. Infobase Publishing. p. "south+china+sea"+"45+million" 91. ISBN 978-1-4381-0970-1.
- "U.S. report details rich resources in South China Sea." (rchived from the original on 2013-02-133)
- Johnson, Keith (5 May 2014). "How Do You Say 'Drill, Baby, Drill' in Chinese?". www.foreignpolicy.com (AFP - Getty). Retrieved 6 May 2014.
- Schearf, Daniel. "S. China Sea Dispute Blamed Partly on Depleted Fish Stocks." VOA, May 16, 2012.
- Direct bilateral dialogue 'best way to solve disputes' - China.org.cn
- Resolving S.China Sea disputes pivotal to stability: Clinton archived from the original on 2010-07-27)
- Wong, Edward (February 5, 2010). "Vietnam Enlists Allies to Stave Off China's Reach". The New York Times.
- DNA: India-China face-off in South China Sea
- South Asia Analysis Group
- Reuters: China paper warns India off Vietnam oil deal
- South Asia Analysis Group[ 
- The Hindu: China warns India on South China Sea exploration projects
- Q&A: South China Sea dispute
- Bloomberg News (6 June 2014). "Vietnam Says China Still Ramming Boats, Airs Sinking Video". Bloomberg. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
- RRayhanR (8 October 2012). "HISTORICAL AND "HUMAN WRONG" OF PHILIPPINE COLONIALISM: HOW NOT TO RESPECT HISTORIC-HUMAN RIGHTS OF BANGSAMORO AND CHINA?". mnlfnet.com. Moro National Liberation Front (Misuari faction). Retrieved 16 May 2014.
- RRayhanR (11 August 2012). "IMPACT OF POSSIBLE CHINA-PHILIPPINES WAR WITHIN FILIPINO-MORO WAR IN MINDANAO". mnlfnet.com. Moro National Liberation Front (Misuari faction). Retrieved 16 May 2014.
- Bray, Adam (June 16, 2014). "The Cham: Descendants of Ancient Rulers of South China Sea Watch Maritime Dispute From Sidelines". National Geographic News (National Geographic). Archived from the original on 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
- "Mission to Vietnam Advocacy Day (Vietnamese-American Meet up 2013) in the U.S. Capitol. A UPR report By IOC-Campa". Chamtoday.com. 2013-09-14. Retrieved 2014-06-17.
- Taylor, Philip (December 2006). "Economy in Motion: Cham Muslim Traders in the Mekong Delta". The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology (The Australian National University) 7 (3): 238. doi:10.1080/14442210600965174. ISSN 1444-2213. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
- Beckman, Robert et al. (eds.) (2013). Beyond Territorial Disputes In The South China Sea: Legal Frameworks for the Joint Development of Hydrocarbon Resources. Edward Elgar. ISBN 978 1 78195 593 2.
- Francois-Xavier Bonnet,Geopolitics of Scarborough Shoal, Irasec'Discussion Paper 14, November 2012
- C.Michael Hogan (2011) South China Sea Topic ed. P.Saundry. Ed.-in-chief C.J.Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment. Washington DC
- Clive Schofield et al., From Disputed Waters to Seas of Opportunity: Overcoming Barriers to Maritime Cooperation in East and Southeast Asia (July 2011)
- UNEP (2007). Review of the Legal Aspects of Environmental Management in the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand. UNEP/GEF/SCS Technical Publication No. 9.
- Wang, Gungwu (2003). The Nanhai Trade: Early Chinese Trade in the South China Sea. Marshall Cavendish International. ISBN 9789812102416.
- Keyan Zou (2005). Law of the sea in East Asia: issues and prospects. London/New York: Rutledge Curzon. ISBN 0-415-35074-3
- United States. Congress. (2014). Maritime Sovereignty in the East and South China Seas: Joint Hearing before the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces of the Committee on Armed Services Meeting Jointly with the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (Serial No. 113-137), House of Representatives, One Hundred Thirteenth Congress, Second Session, Hearing held January 14, 2014
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to South China Sea.|
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- ASEAN and the South China Sea: Deepening Divisions Q&A with Ian J. Storey (July 2012)
- Rising Tensions in the South China Sea, June 2011 Q&A with Ian J. Storey
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- The South China Sea on Google Earth - featured on Google Earth's Official Blog
- South China Sea Virtual Library - online resource for students, scholars and policy-makers interested in South China Sea regional development, environment, and security issues.
- Energy Information Administration - The South China Sea
- Tropical Research and Conservation Centre - The South China Sea
- Weekly Piracy Reportdead link
- Reversing Environmental Degradation Trends in the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand
- UNEP/GEF South China Sea Knowledge Documents